The Arizona Cardinals, with the hiring of Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern, have hired the first female coach of any kind in the National Football League. Welter will work with the team’s inside linebackers throughout training camp.
Welter is 37 and holds a master's degree in sports psychology and a PhD in Psychology. She played rugby at Boston College and running back for the Texas Revolution, becoming the first female to play a non-kicking position in a men’s professional football league.
In February of 2015 Welter was introduced as the new linebackers and special teams coach of the Texas Revolution making her the first female to coach in a men's professional league.
The then coach of the Revolution recommended Welter to Arians who was looking to provide opportunities to worthy coaching candidates, Welters 14 seasons playing pro-football aided in the decision to bring her on board for the Cardinals during training camp.
The hiring of Welter, even for this short a tenure, gives credence to what Greg Popovich of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs (who hired Becky Hammons as the first female assistant coach) and Bruce Arians of the Cardinals have said - that as long as a coach can aid a player in his development and make them better that they have a place in the league.
The NFL had previously broken new ground by announcing on April 8th, 2015 that Sarah Thomas would be the first full-time female official in NFL history. Thomas was also the first woman to officiate a major college football game as well as a bowl game.
Bruce Arians, the Cardinals head coach, had been previously asked in March about the possibility of a female coach in the NFL to which he responded that, "The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they'll be hired."
No one thought it would be this soon.